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Girls soccer preview: Benet, Bolingbrook, Lisle primed for success this season

With a little luck of the Irish, girls soccer teams across the state will be kicking off the season on March 17, the first day games can be played. Here's the outlook for area teams as the season gets underway.

Benet Redwings

Coach: Bob Gros

2013 record: 17-5-1, regional champions

Top players:

Katie Baumann sr. D

Emily Curtis sr. D

Sophia Elbchiri jr. D

Emma Hlavin jr. GK

Jacquie Kaufman jr. F/M

Michelle Morefield sr. M

Outlook: A quick glance at the returning players and it's easy to see where Benet will be best this season.

"Our strength is on the defensive side," head coach Bob Gros said.

Katie Baumann and Sophia Elbchiri were East Suburban Catholic all-conference defenders last season, and Emma Hlavin was the Redwings' keeper. All three return, as does all-conference player and solid two-way midfielder Michelle Morefield.

At the same time, Benet is poised to improve upon the 60 goals it scored last year. Gros said a tweaked offensive scheme should help the goal total increase. Morefield and returning varsity player Jacquie Kaufman will spearhead the attack.

A solid nonconference schedule and the tough slate in the ESCC should help the Redwings get ready for the postseason, which is where many of their goals come into play.

"Our goal is to improve on last year's results," Gros said. "We're talking about making the final four in the state tournament."

Bolingbrook Raiders

Coach: Martin Uscila

2013 record: 10-8-2

Top players:

Caroline Harvey jr. F

Rachel Schneider sr. F

Nikia Smith sr. F

Outlook: There is one major difference between this year's Bolingbrook team and the one that preceded it last season: This team has not been ravaged by injuries.

"We had so many key injuries last year, that it is hard to tell what we could have been," head coach Martin Uscila said. "With a healthy team this year, we hope to compete to win conference and a regional title."

Aside from health, little is different for the Raiders this season. Eight seniors are gone, but keeper Karissa Jones was the only starter among that group. Uscila has yet to name a starter in net, but an experienced defensive corps and potentially explosive offense should help lessen the learning curve.

Caroline Harvey, Rachel Schneider and Nikia Smith are all slated to see time at forward, and all three have the necessary skills to tally double-digit goals. Smith is a Northwestern recruit and Schneider will continue her career in college, as well. All three possess explosive speed, which is a team-wide strength. Speed, athleticism and a veteran makeup has Uscila excited to see what his team can do on the field.

"This is the most talented team I have been a part of in my eight years as head coach," he said. "We are a veteran team, we are a deeper team with more talent, and I am confident that we will be able to score goals in big games unlike in previous years where we relied on our defense to keep us in games. It should be a fun year."

Lisle Lions

Coach: Paul Kohorn

2013 record: 13-8

Top players:

Sierra Birdsell sr. D

Breann Hutchison jr. M

Julia Loveless jr. D

Val Melo sr. M/D

Sarah Mogensen jr. D

Elena Pivek sr. M

Hannah Prindeville jr. GK

Cali Tomko fr. F

Outlook: With the top two scorers (Skylar Tomko and Ashleigh Zurek) from last season having graduated, Lisle's offense may be a work in progress as the season goes on. The defense should be solid from the get go.

At the very back of the defense, Hannah Prindeville is the starter in net. She played a handful of games as a backup last year and is also a keeper for her club team in the offseason.

"I like the way she controls the [penalty area]," head coach Paul Kohorn said. "She knows what she's doing back there."

In front of Prindeville, Sierra Birdsell, Julia Loveless, Val Melo and Sarah Mogensen comprise a strong defensive unit. Elena Pivek and Breann Hutchison will spearhead the midfield, but the top of the attack is still a bit of an unknown. Freshman Cali Tomko figures to be the starter at forward. She is young, but Kohorn likes her potential.

"She is the total package," Kohorn said. "He basic skillset is the highest I've seen at Lisle. I'm excited to see what she can do."

The Lions' starting 11 will be comprised of six juniors, four seniors and Tomko. A short bench means that avoiding injury and being in shape will be keys. It won't take long for Lisle to see what it's made of as a March 19 game at Lockport and home games against Willows Academy and Hinckley-Big Rock the weekend of March 28 come within the first two weeks of the season.

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